Espen Rasmussen (b. 1976) is based at Nesodden, close to Oslo, Norway. He is represented by VII Photo and works as a photo editor in VG Helg — the weekend magazine of the biggest daily Norwegian newspaper VG. Espen has won numerous awards for his work, including three prizes from the World Press Photo, several in the Picture of the Year international (POYi) and 45 awards in the Norwegian Picture of the Year, including Photographer of the Year in 2015, 2016 and 2018 as well as the main prize, Picture of the Year in 2004 and 2016.
White Rage is a highly current and controversial project by the award-winning Norwegian photographer and photo editor Espen Rasmussen . It is a geographically extensive and comprehensive visual study of xenophobia and the individual mechanisms and motives that cause people to translate hate into actions in the aftermath of the refugee crisis.
Traveling across Europe – from Norway to Italy and France to Russia – Espen Rasmussen met and spoke to hundreds of right wing activists who reject Europe’s liberal politics and moral standards, instead advocating Nationalist revival and a new conservative order. And in Trump’s America, the Ku Klux Klan has been superseded by Nazis with European role models. Espen travelled 3266 km through three states in the east of the U.S. to understand what drives hate in America.
Espen spent most of 2015 documenting the exodus from Syria, following four young men from the Syria- Turkey border to Greece, through the Balkans and on to Germany. He saw how Europeans opened their homes to refugees and donated food, clothes and their time. But as the year came to a close, the mood changed. Several countries started to build fences on their borders, and right wing political parties gained support. Public discourse was not about how to help but how to prevent more refugees from coming. Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary gained seats, and Marine Le Pen became a presidential candidate in France. Things that were previously seen as racist had become accepted among politicians and the public.
In the spring of 2016 Espen Rasmussen started an almost two year long journey through some of the darkest places in Europe and the U.S. He met fascists, Nazis, muslim haters, extreme nationalists, militia members and right wing populists. Two questions constantly arose: What drives them? Why do they hate?
In Ukraine, he meet a family man who cut a swastika in the forehead of a Muslim man with a knife before throwing him down in a well. In Russia he came across militant nationalists who practice shooting in a residential area and beat up Jews, Muslims and Roma ‘for fun’. As he travelled around Europe, the continent was changing: terrorist attacks in France, Germany and Belgium; a coup attempt in Turkey; Brexit in the UK and at the end of the year, Donald Trump winning the election in the US.
The political climate was getting colder and darker. Fear, desperation and alienation were spreading. Every day in 2016 there were almost ten attacks on immigrants in Germany, according to the German Interior Ministry. It was like the old world was breaking apart. Everywhere he went, he found the same phenomenon – the extreme had become more ‘respectable’ and Nazism had evolved. From skinheads with bomber jackets and jack boots to something more ‘normal’.
According to political experts this so-called ‘new right’ is far more dangerous than the old skinheads. Many of them now are students, academics and business men who talks about family values, identity and culture. In the 1990s they were standing on street corners handing out flyers. Today, the propaganda is spreading through social media, podcasts, web portals and video productions. Every time Europe sees another terrorist attack, the suspicion immediately turns to the Islamic State. In reality, right-wing extremists have also carried out numerous attacks over the past decades, with 300 murders since 1990. Who are these people? What do they want? And are they dangerous?
Espen Rasmussen completed his travels and focus on right wing people and groups in 2018, but the far-right movements are not in retreat. On the contrary, according to European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights publishing a survey last year, with 25,500 respondents with different ethnic minority and immigrant backgrounds across all 28 EU Member States, 24 percentage stated that they had experienced hate-motivated harassment in the preceding 12 months before the survey. In the period 2007– 2016, the number of reported hate crime has doubled in 19 EU countries. An increase from 19,767 complaints to 40,152.